Arizona soccer ready for season ahead
Wildcats kick off season vs. Iowa State on Thursday in Tucson
University of Arizona soccer's Becca Moros is taking the reins for her second year as head coach of the Wildcats, and will aim for a more settled season.
The 2021-2022 effort for the Wildcats would have been an anomaly no matter who was in the dugout, what with COVID rules allowing for 5th year players and the reverberations of a 2020-2021 season compressed entirely into the spring of 2021.
Arizona, however, had the added complication of scrambling to find a new head coach when Tony Amato skipped town to become the literal and figurative Florida Man. By the time Moros was handed the job she had just a few short weeks to get to know her players and formulate a plan for the season. Any bobbles along the way could always be attributed to that turbulent start.
The coming season represents a crucible for Moros and her staff. She’s now had a year with the returning players to work though tactics, strategy and fitness as well as a whole new set of players that were brought in to fit the mold she’s cast.
This season sees 11 players entering the program. The recruiting team cast a wide net to build the squad with players coming in from eight different states (and provinces, sorry Quebec). That broad perspective included a cautious approach to the NCAA portal.
Moros said that they were really careful about going after players who were available on the transfer portal because you don’t know why someone isn’t satisfied somewhere else that they’ve been. Despite those reservations, though, the Wildcats picked up midfielder Nyota Katembo from the University of Portland and goalkeeper Hannah Mitchell from UCLA.
Arizona’s new recruits have already seen a lot of minutes in the two preseason friendlies against NAU and San Diego State.
Hannah Mitchell was handed 45 minutes between the sticks in last week’s friendly against SDSU and showed the leadership qualities that coach Moros was looking for when she brought in the former UCLA player.
Incoming freshman Sami Baytosh also made an impact in preseason, scoring the game’s only goal against NAU.
Scoring goals is certainly a question at the front of every Wildcat fan’s mind with the departure of Jill Aguilera, the school’s all-time leading goal-scorer. Forward Nicki Dallin acknowledges that the burden now needs to be carried by the remaining players, but takes solace in the fact that the team is creating more chances than in the past.
One of the new players helping to create goal scoring opportunities is sophomore transfer Nyota Katembo. Born in Tanzania and raised in Montreal, Katembo seems to exemplify Moros’ philosophy of “positional possession”.
Quick feet, aggressive both on and off the ball, the new number 10 was impressive in last Thursday’s match against San Diego State University. She entered the transfer portal to get better as a player and to find a team that meshed with her skills better than Portland and feels that the style Moros is striving for is a good match.
Of course Arizona’s squad is more than just the new recruits and will rely on a backbone of existing players who have had a year to understand the tactics and strategies that define the team.
Junior midfielder Megan Chelf showed her continued importance to the cause as she scored the team’s only goal in the loss to SDSU. Chelf has at times seemed like the beating heart of this team in the last year. Her dedication drives the team forward and also results in the occasional yellow card, as happened last Thursday.
Fans who were able to attend last week’s match against SDSU, which was delayed by 13 hours by weather, might have noticed another familiar face in the squad who was playing in an unfamiliar place. Midfielder Madison Goerlinger played the full 90 minutes at center back.
When asked if this was something we might see more of, she was coy, saying it was a possibility. It’s not a role that is entirely new, however, as she also played at center back for her club Miss Kick FC in the WPSL over the summer. That team went on to reach the regional finals in the WPSL, so she must have been doing something right.
Arizona kicks off their 2022-2023 season with a home match against Iowa State on Thursday, August 18, at 7 p.m. at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium.